One of the most popular toys for dogs is actually bad for them! Tennis balls are a common play toy and present many hazards to your dog’s health. Here are the top three reasons why you should stop using tennis balls:
They can be a choking hazard.
Dogs with strong jaws can pop tennis balls, making them a choking hazard. The ball can split apart in your dog’s throat, blocking your dog’s airway.
Broken pieces can be ingested.
Dogs who break tennis balls may end up chewing up the pieces and swallowing them. Ingested rubber can result in intestinal blockages which may require expensive surgery.
Tennis ball felt damages teeth.
The felt on a standard tennis ball is abrasive like sandpaper and if chewed excessively and constantly can wear down your dog’s teeth. Additionally, the dirt and sand that gets caught in the tennis ball felt can also contribute to wearing down your dog’s teeth. When teeth get worn down, root is exposed which can lead to a whole host of issues. Exposed root is painful and may require expensive surgery to remove or cap the tooth. A simple tooth extraction usually costs $75 to $200 per tooth. Extracting an impacted tooth costs $800 to $4,000. And titanium teeth can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $4,500 each.
I used tennis balls with my dogs for several years. Unfortunately I didn’t stop using them until it was too late. My German Shepherd has worn down teeth. Fortunately there is very little root exposed.
What to use instead
Instead of using tennis balls, I recommend using rubber Chuck-It balls. They are safe for your dog’s teeth and difficult/impossible to pop. Be sure to use a ball that’s larger than your dog’s throat so he does not choke on it. For reference, I use an XXL Chuck-It ball for my German Shepherd and Large Chuck-It balls for my Australian Shepherds. (Link here)
The risk of choking on a ball is real. Tragically, two of our clients have lost their dogs due to playing with them with balls that were too small. These were large breed dogs using standard tennis balls. The dogs choked on them and they were unable to get the balls out of their throats in time to save them. Our hearts go out to them, as the pain of a loss like that is gut-wrenching and unbelievably tragic.
Play with your dogs and have fun with them, but be safe. Don’t use tennis balls- throw them away! And use Chuck-It Balls that are big enough they won’t get caught in your dog’s esophagus.